Best of Miami®

Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT IN A STRIP MALL
Cafe Pastis

Since August 1999, when French native Philippe Jacquet joined with Miami native Scott Price to open this cozy little café, the place has become a neighborhood favorite, with scores of fiercely loyal customers dining here regularly -- strip mall or no strip mall. It's easy to see why. Aside from the friendly ambiance and charming décor (quite an accomplishment for a storefront operation), the food is consistently excellent across the full range of the menu -- from salads and soups to steaks and seafood. Their steamed mussels are justly famous, and if you like authentic French fries, this is the place. (Winner of Best French Fries, 2002.) The open kitchen is so small you'll wonder how it's possible such wonderful fare can be created in such cramped quarters. Answer: The chefs have perfected a culinary pas de deux that keeps them from crashing into each other. That, too, is a pleasure to behold.

7310 SW 57th Ave., South Miami, 33143
MAP
305-665-3322
BEST HOT DOG OR HOT DOG STAND

Dogma, a chic little eatery on a rapidly developing stretch of Biscayne Boulevard, is anything but pedantic and boring. The hot dogs are served up in an array of fanciful arrangements, from the health-conscious Athens (which overflows with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and feta cheese) to the decadent Pomodoro (caked in bruschetta and feta cheese). The waitresses are friendly, the trance music piping out of the kitchen is tastefully low-key, and an array of small tables are located mere steps away from the counter. For frequent visitors, try the rest of the menu, which includes chicken and BLT sandwiches, chili, and a salad incarnation of the Athens.

BEST HOT DOG OR HOT DOG STAND
Dogma

Dogma, a chic little eatery on a rapidly developing stretch of Biscayne Boulevard, is anything but pedantic and boring. The hot dogs are served up in an array of fanciful arrangements, from the health-conscious Athens (which overflows with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and feta cheese) to the decadent Pomodoro (caked in bruschetta and feta cheese). The waitresses are friendly, the trance music piping out of the kitchen is tastefully low-key, and an array of small tables are located mere steps away from the counter. For frequent visitors, try the rest of the menu, which includes chicken and BLT sandwiches, chili, and a salad incarnation of the Athens.

7030 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 33138
MAP
305-759-3433
BEST-KEPT SECRET

With this, it's a secret no longer. But truth be told, Boaters' Grill has developed a devoted following over the past few years. It is one of two concessions inside Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, both operated by the David Gonzalez family. First was the casual, open-air, Lighthouse Café, so named for its proximity to that Key Biscayne landmark. The similarly designed Boaters' Grill followed, and drew a more select crowd, mainly because of its location across the island, far from the beach crowds. It overlooks the tranquil No Name Harbor and offers views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. But then tragedy struck: Lighthouse Café burned to the ground this past New Year's Eve. The Gonzalez family and state park officials responded by extending hours of operation for the surviving Grill. The restaurant also added tables, expanded its wine list (concentrating on Spanish, Italian, and Chilean labels), and created both a lunch and a dinner menu. Lunch or dinner, whether it's one of several paellas, lobster, ceviche, or whole fried fish, the preparation reflects the Latin flavor of the place -- and its kitchen, manned by chefs from Cuba, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Today the Grill opens every day at 9:00 a.m. Closing hour Sunday through Wednesday is 9:00 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it stays open till 10:00 p.m. During daylight hours, diners must pay the park entrance fee, but after sunset there is no charge. So what's the secret? A beautiful setting, a casual and friendly atmosphere, and excellent fresh seafood at very reasonable prices. In fact Boaters' Grill easily could have taken the honors as Best Waterfront Dining, Best Outdoor Dining, or Best Seafood Restaurant. Instead we gave it an award that will be obsolete soon after you've read this.

BEST-KEPT SECRET
Boaters' Grill

With this, it's a secret no longer. But truth be told, Boaters' Grill has developed a devoted following over the past few years. It is one of two concessions inside Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, both operated by the David Gonzalez family. First was the casual, open-air, Lighthouse Café, so named for its proximity to that Key Biscayne landmark. The similarly designed Boaters' Grill followed, and drew a more select crowd, mainly because of its location across the island, far from the beach crowds. It overlooks the tranquil No Name Harbor and offers views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. But then tragedy struck: Lighthouse Café burned to the ground this past New Year's Eve. The Gonzalez family and state park officials responded by extending hours of operation for the surviving Grill. The restaurant also added tables, expanded its wine list (concentrating on Spanish, Italian, and Chilean labels), and created both a lunch and a dinner menu. Lunch or dinner, whether it's one of several paellas, lobster, ceviche, or whole fried fish, the preparation reflects the Latin flavor of the place -- and its kitchen, manned by chefs from Cuba, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Today the Grill opens every day at 9:00 a.m. Closing hour Sunday through Wednesday is 9:00 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it stays open till 10:00 p.m. During daylight hours, diners must pay the park entrance fee, but after sunset there is no charge. So what's the secret? A beautiful setting, a casual and friendly atmosphere, and excellent fresh seafood at very reasonable prices. In fact Boaters' Grill easily could have taken the honors as Best Waterfront Dining, Best Outdoor Dining, or Best Seafood Restaurant. Instead we gave it an award that will be obsolete soon after you've read this.

1200 S. Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, 33149
MAP
305-361-0080
BEST CHICKEN WINGS

Chicken wings, before the Atkins diet revolution, were thought to be evil. Munch on them, it was believed, and as sure as the grease on your chinny chin-chin, you'd morph into fat tub. But all that has changed now. Fat ain't all that bad and Fu Manchu's version of chicken wings, fried in peanut oil, are made sans the bready, carb-loaded crust. So here's the skinny. Order the $6.85 appetizer portion of the wings. They are plentiful and served piping -- and we mean PIPING -- hot. Dip them in Fu's superspicy Chinese mustard and you're sure to clear your sinuses and probably burn off a few calories with the heat. You can enjoy your wings in this funky 1930s eatery decorated with cheesy-looking pagodas and murals of gongs and Buddhas.

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BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT IN A STRIP MALL: Cafe Pastis

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